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Emotions fill Garcia's round

A day after making ill-advised comments, Sergio Garcia apologizes, hears it from the crowd, then makes his run.

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2002

A day after making ill-advised comments, Sergio Garcia apologizes, hears it from the crowd, then makes his run.

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- The day began with a note of apology and ended with a handshake. The interim was filled with cheers and jeers and enough birdies to get paired today in the final group with Tiger Woods. Whether Spain's Sergio Garcia can overtake the No. 1 player in the world remains to be seen.

Garcia endured Saturday at Bethpage State Park, where he got an earful from rambunctious New York fans, who ribbed him about his preshot routine waggle, his girlfriend, tennis' Martina Hingis, his father and who knows what else.

A 3-under-par 67 briefly pulled Garcia within two of Woods, who birdied two of his last four holes for a four-shot advantage.

"It was rough out there. But I'm actually glad it happened," Garcia said. "It helped me mature a lot."

On Friday, during a miserable, rainy round, Garcia complained the tournament should have been stopped. At one point, he appeared to make an obscene gesture to spectators. Then afterward, he suggested Woods receives preferential treatment, that had Woods been playing later in such conditions, the event would have been halted.

Realizing his comments didn't play too well, Garcia sought Woods on Saturday morning, leaving a note of apology in his locker. Woods said he didn't see the note, but appreciated the gesture. They shook hands as they crossed paths to meet with the media.

"It's awfully nice of him to do that," Woods said. "That shows me a lot. ... It's unfortunate that Sergio made a mistake (Friday), and I think he's probably the first one to admit that. You're dealing with emotions on both sides. The fans are charged up. The players are charged up, because we're fighting our tails off out there."

Garcia, who finished second to Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship, did a good job to keep his composure. While many of the fans cheered him, he heard enough negative stuff to sometimes back off shots. One time, he called out a fan, daring him to repeat his comments.

"There was a little bit of everything out there," Garcia said. "There were some names that I would not like them to (use), because I don't think they have anything to do with what is going on. More than anything, I just don't want people to say things when I'm over the ball."

"Walking down the fairway they were saying some crazy things," playing partner Jeff Maggert said. "It wasn't too bad until the end when the beer started flowing. It was getting pretty rowdy the last four holes."

After completing his round, Garcia had an armed escort of about 10 security officers.

"Actually, I'm glad it happened," he said. "It was good to be in a major when you know you need a good round to have a chance, contending with the crowd and everything. And to be able to put everything on the side and concentrate on just playing golf, that's what I like to do. It was quite an experience."

Garcia said he brought the fan reaction upon himself.

"I was a little hot," he said. "I'm 22. Sometimes I may be my worst opponent. I was trying to handle it the best way I could. Sometimes we say things we shouldn't, but it's hard to say the right things over and over. I'm trying."

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